When viewing pages of a family registry, imagine the pages as being cut out from one giant scroll. The following diagrams represent a simplified version of that visualization. First, imagine a giant scroll with information about family members recorded on it. The scroll has horizontal rows that each represent a generation. In this simplified example there are only 4 generations, but in a real Korean genealogical record there could be over 30 generations recorded. Note that each entry shows a married couple or an individual child. Also note that the record starts in the upper right and is read top-to-bottom, right-to-left, in traditional style.
Diagram 5.1 Visualization of a Genealogy Scroll
Next, imagine that there are lines showing parent-child relationships. The actual records do not include these lines, but this visualization clarifies how to identify parent-child relationships. Children are generally located just below their parents in the records. They don’t always line up exactly, but there will be enough clues in the text to identify where one couple’s children end and the next begin. For example, each parent record lists the number of sons and daughters, which will helps identify where that family’s record ends in the next row of children.
Diagram 5.2 Visualization of Lineage on a Genealogy Scroll
Next, imagine cutting the scroll into pages. In this simplified example there are two generations per page. In actual records you typically find about 6 generations per page. Also, the pages could be organized into multiple volumes of books.
Diagram 5.3 Visualization of a Genealogy Scroll Cut into Pages
Note that not every page has every generation row populated. In the simplified example above, Page 3 and 6 have no records, and therefore may be excluded from the actual record. Page 9 only has records on the row for the 4th generation and is blank for the 3rd generation; in that case you would need to turn to page 8 and move up a row to locate the children’s parents. Also, it is not uncommon to see the text of the bottom generation overflow across the bottom row’s boundaries somewhat; some dates and text might overflow a bit into the row below in an effort to fit all of the children on same page as their parents. Sometimes that still doesn’t get the whole family on one page, so you may have to turn to the next page to see the rest of a parent’s children. Remember that pages are numbered from back-to-front in eastern style, unlike western books that number pages front-to-back.
Facing pages are generally organized as follows. The facing pages can be considered to be one page read from right-to-left across the binding and top-to-bottom thru the generations listed on the right page (elements D-I on the following diagram). All of the structural elements labeled below are normally written in HanJa from top-to-bottom.
Locating individuals in a 12-page record would be easy, but it would be considerably more difficult when the record count grows to tens of thousands of individuals in the clan. A method of linking pages across generations helps simplify navigation. The following example describes links up and down generations that span multiple pages for Diagram 5.3. The names of Parents A-1 and Parents A-2 from pages 7 and 8 would also be listed at the bottom of Page 1 under Grandparents A in an appreviated record showing just the gender, name, and often even the volume and page number where their full record can be found (page 1, in this case). The opposite direction is also linked. The name of the grandfather from Grandparents A on page 1 would be listed above Parents A1 and Parents A2 on pages 7 and 8. Similar links would be included between page 4, 12, and 10 to link the children of Grandparents B to the page with their father.
Generation numbers are shown in locations D thru I in the following diagram. The earliest founder of the clan is generation 1. Generations are generally formatted as HanJa numbers followed by the HanJa character世, meaning generation:
Diagram 5.4 Structure of Facing Pages of a Family Registry
A – Book Title and Volume (read top-to-bottom)
B – Page #
C – Page # (one page greater than B; book pages arranged right-to-left)
D, E, F, G, H, I – Generation # (increasing down the page)
When the book is bound, the book is read in the opposite direction as western or even modern Korean books. Genealogical records follow the traditional method of the “back” cover being the “front.” Pages are numbered back-to-front. Facing pages are numbered from the right page to the left page, but they function as one large page.
Linking Individual Records
Records of individuals follow some common patterns. They start by indicating if the individual is a son (子, 자, Ja) or a daughter (女, 녀, Nyeo). The family name is not specified in individual records of children born into the clan, but the family name is specified in the title of the registry book. It is assumed that all sons and daughters of the clan in the entire family registry share the family name. Note that married women do not change their family name when they are married, unlike in western cultures. Accordingly, women who are married into the family have their family names and sometimes even their father’s names specified in the record.
When a son marries, his children are listed in his father’s family registry. This makes it possible to find a full paternal line in one family registry by following a linked chain of fathers.
Following maternal links to a mother’s parents requires jumping to another family’s registry book. When a daughter marries, she is given to her husband’s family. Her children will be listed under her in her husband’s family registry. She will usually still be listed in her father’s registry as his daughter, and normally her husband’s name will be listed, too. This provides genealogists with a precious link between the two clans. The daughter and even her husband may be in both families’ registries, but her children are only listed in her husband’s family registry. These maternal links bind together the family registries of all the clans in Korea into one people with a common history.
Linking Individuals Across Pages and Volumes
The top and bottom generation rows of each page serve as a link to the same individual on another page of the family registry, except in cases where the start or end of a family line has been reached. The top parent generation on a page is represented by generation row D in the previous diagram, and the bottom generation row of children on a page is represented by generation row I. Listing an individual twice (as the parent on one page and the child on another) links pages of a registry together when moving up or down to generations that can’t all fit on one page.
In some newer publications, individual records on the top and bottom generation rows include volume and page numbers to aide in locating the linked page for that individual. The volume number is often prefixed with the HanJa character正and followed by the volume number and page number, all typically written in HanJa. If volume and page number links are not included, you can still find the linked page by searching all pages of the family registry for the linked record of that individual. It helps to narrow down the search by only searching pages with the correct generation number. If you are linking down a generation, the name of a child on the bottom generation row of one page is included in the top parent row of another page; both of those linked records represent the same individual and will have the same generation number. If you are linking up a generation, a parent name on the top generation row of a page is also listed as a child on the bottom row of another page; that page continues the line up to earlier generations.
In these cases where a person is listed twice (the top parent generation of one page and the bottom child generation of another page), their full record is shown in the parent version of the record (top generation row of a page) and an abbreviated record is shown in the child version of the record (bottom generation row of a page). The full record includes information like the date of birth, spouse, number of children, or grave site. The abbreviated child version of such a record may only show the gender and name and is included just as a link to the full record on the other page. Note that the two pages that are linked together could be in different volumes/books of the same family registry.